Although Poké Balls are some of Pokémon‘s most ubiquitous items, they have also been some of the most mysterious. Poké Balls have existed in basically every iteration of the Pokémon world. They have appeared in countless games, across the anime, and in the franchise’s films. These days we have Poké Balls and Great Balls, Ultra Balls and Premier Balls, Timer Balls and more. But Pokémon trainers still didn’t have the answer to one key question. How do Poké Balls work? Is it magic? Science? Or some strange combination of both that allows Poké Balls to snag unsuspecting wild Pokémon into their grasp? Players and characters alike seemed not to know. But now the long-awaited Pokémon Legends: Arceus has finally been released. And in addition to a slew of fun new regional forms, Arceus brings with it some new insight on how exactly a Poké Ball functions.
Fans have had many theories about how Poké Balls work over the years. Some have thought that the Pokémon simply becomes matter. Others have imagined the Poké Ball as something like the TARDIS, bigger on the inside. But, in its introduction, Pokémon Legends: Arceus shares some new insights on this fascinating item. We know that Arceus takes place in the franchise’s past. We are returning to the days before trainers really cemented themselves. And we get to see how things like the Poké Ball were invented by the Hisuian people.
As players begin the game, they meet Professor Laventon. The Professor explains more about the world of Hisui. He also introduces Arceus‘ starter Pokémon. In the midst of this explanation, Laventon remembers to explain the Poké Ball. At first, he merely hands over a Poké Ball and says, “Throw these at Pokémon to catch them.” Which, of course, is our standard explanation. But Professor Laventon seems to realize what we already know, which is that this explanation actually explains nothing, so he elaborates.
Here’s what he has to say:
Now, I’ve mentioned already that Pokémon are strange, marvelous creatures. What’s so strange about them you ask? Well, each and every Pokémon is able to shrink itself into a miniscule size! And that’s where Poké Balls come in! Poké Balls. Poké Balls are a recent invention, you see. Throw one of them at a Pokémon, and, why, the Pokémon will shrink down and fit inside the ball, comfy as can be.
We admit, that still leaves some questions about the Poké Ball and how it works. For instance, why does it trigger the Pokémon’s ability to become small? Is it a trait every Pokémon in the (scientifically-speaking) Kingdom of Pokémon shares? Why don’t Pokémon use this ability in other instances? And once inside the ball, even if a Pokémon is small, what does it do in there?
While we’re waiting for these answers, you can enjoy a video about how the science behind shrinking a Pokémon might work. Of course, this video considers more about how a ball might emit a ray to shrink a Pokémon than how a Pokémon might shrink itself. But the science behind how an object might shrink remains the same. Perhaps the Pokémon employs the technique on itself.
More insight into the Poké Ball is definitely still needed. But at least the game has let us know a little bit more. We’d love to see the tiny, tiny versions of Pokémon one day. Maybe if the Pokémon franchise ever visits the future.